We all know the classic signs and symptoms of the flu.
They can include the sudden onset of:
- cough and chest discomfort
- body aches
- runny nose
- sore throat
And these symptoms usually last a few days to a few weeks, with the worst of them lasting about five to seven days.
Warning Signs of a Severe Case of the Flu
But what if you don’t just have a classic case of the flu.
That makes it important to be able to recognize severe flu symptoms or signs that someone with the flu needs immediate medical attention, including:
- having trouble breathing or fast breathing
- being unable to eat and drink and getting dehydrated (dry mouth, urinating less, or fewer wet diapers, etc.)
- not waking up easily
- being inconsolable or so irritable that your child does not even want to be held
- having chest pain
- is suddenly dizzy
- being confused
- having seizures
- having severe vomiting
You should also seek medical attention if your child was getting better, but then got worse again, especially if they again develop a fever and a worsening cough. Or if your child has a chronic health problem, like asthma or diabetes, and the flu is making it hard to control.
How will your child be treated? It depends, on treatments might include oxygen, IV fluids, antiviral medications, and antibiotics (if there is a secondary bacterial infection), etc.
And remember that children under the age of two to five years and those with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, neurologic and neuromuscular conditions, and heart disease, etc., are most at risk for severe flu complications.
But you don’t have to be at high risk to develop flu complications.
Many of the kids who die with the flu each year don’t have any underlying health problems.
Anyone, even previously healthy kids, can develop pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, or septic shock, etc., so get help if you see any of the above signs and symptoms that your child with the flu is getting worse.
And get your kids vaccinated. Tragically, most kids who die with the flu each year didn’t have a flu shot.
What to Know About the Warning Signs of a Severe Case of the Flu
Seek medical attention if your child’s flu symptoms are getting worse, especially if it seemed they were getting better, but then got worse again, which can all be signs of complications of a severe flu case.
More on the Warning Signs of a Severe Case of the Flu
- When To Bring Your Child With The Flu Into The ER
- Influenza (flu) and your baby
- CDC – The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick
- CDC – Flu Symptoms & Complications
- Influenza in children
- CDC – People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications
- CDC – Guide for considering influenza testing when influenza viruses are circulating in the community
- CDC – Health Advisory: Seasonal Influenza A(H3N2) Activity and Antiviral Treatment of Patients with Influenza
- Study – Severe Complications in Influenza-like Illnesses
- Study – Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Against Pediatric Deaths: 2010–2014
- CDC – Influenza Associated Pediatric Mortality
Last Updated on January 28, 2018 by Vincent Iannelli, MD